Houses are built to be containers of joy, safety, and security. That is what they are designed for, what architects intend, and builders infuse in their walls. Houses thrive when their purpose is fulfilled and suffer when it is not.
Every home has a heart. For many, it is the kitchen where food is prepared and the joy of preparation abounds. For others, it is the dining room where the blessings of food are eaten and prayers are offered in gratitude. For others, it might be where the family gathered or the room in which entertainment ruled. Every home has a heart somewhere, and you can feel where that might be.
This house is very empty now, even though most of the furniture still rests exactly where it was when the stroke happened and lives changed. There is no joy anymore, no welcoming presence, no real holding for me. It’s simply a place I go to rest while I am in town to do the business of tying loose ends.
I don’t want to, but I return to my father’s office again to scrutinize his files. Many are yellowed with age, and there are a few onion-skin thin copies dotted with ancient letters from a Navy typewriter probably discarded decades ago. Some of these are important, though fading. I scan them and store them in the Cloud, reflecting on the astonishing reality shift this simple act represents.
A couple of dozen photos adorn the doors of the cabinets above his desk. About half of them are family, the rest I do not recognize. They must be friends. I assume they know about mom’s and dad’s new life.
Again, I feel observed by many ghosts. Those photos have to go.
Then, I realize that this is the heart of the house now. This is where my father spent most of his time while my mother napped. Not the kitchen my mother “divorced” years ago or the dining room they have not used in possibly a year, and certainly not the immense family room with its gigantic, rarely used television. My father’s office has become the heart of this house.
The ghosts all live here now. That is why I work from the dining room and at least partially why I find it difficult to be in that space. There is no room for me.
Suddenly, in a flash, I understand. No one has explained to the house what has happened. It is still waiting for my parents to come home. Very likely, it thinks of me more as an intruder, since I had not visited very often.
In our culture, we tend to think of houses as “things” — something separate, inanimate, and “out there.” However, that is not the case. Houses have their own spirit, their own essence, their own awareness infused in them not only by the builders but also by those who live within them.
The relationships that grow between a house as a home and those whom they protect is important. Some relationships are not good, as when the owners do not take care of the property or building. Yet my parents took very good care of their home for a very long time.
Simply put, this house misses my parents.
I know what I need to do, yet it is not the right time. So, I rise from the desk and cross the room to the doorway, turn off the light. The room turns gray in semi-dusk light. I close the door, rest my hand on it from the hallway for a moment, and say, “Be at peace.”